ISLAMABAD: The president can ask the prime minister to obtain a vote of confidence in the National Assembly, to show that he commands the confidence of majority lawmakers in the lower house of the parliament, said a senior leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
When questioned by the host , after Tuesday’s verdict of the Supreme Court, President Arif Alvi can insist Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif show his majority in the National Assembly, Senator Ali Zafar, a senior lawyer and member of the PTI, said it was possible.
“Yes, the president can ask the prime minister to do so,” Zafar replied, “There is only a difference of two votes [in favour of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif]. Both these votes are from the PML-Q [Pakistan Muslim League-Q].”
The two parliamentarians, Zafar was referring to, are PML-Q’s Salik Hussain and Tariq Bashir Cheema. Both are federal ministers in the current government.
While Hussain and Cheema have sided with the coalition government of Prime Minister Sharif, two other senior members of their party, Pervez Elahi and Moonis Elahi, have decided to support Sharif’s rival, former prime minister Imran Khan.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that if a lawmaker crossed party lines, during voting in the lower house, then his or her vote would be discarded.
In light of the verdict, Ali Zafar said that Salik Hussain and Tariq Bashir Cheema will have to follow directions issued by their party leader.
“If these two members are given directions [by PML-Q’s leadership] that during the vote of confidence they have to vote in a certain way then the [present] government can be removed,” he told the host of the show. “It is now clear after the court’s verdict that you cannot vote against party lines.”
The chairman of the PML-Q, officially, is Hussain’s father, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
The last time a prime minister obtained a vote of confidence was in March last year, by then prime minister Imran Khan, who received 178 votes in the 342-member National Assembly.
On whether this judgement will apply to the election for chief minister in Punjab, the PTI senator said it will apply to the past, present and future events as well.
When asked if after the top court’s judgement a vote of no confidence cannot be brought against a sitting prime minister in the future, Zafar said it can.
He gave the example of former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who had suggested that if the majority of members from his party leave him then a defection clause will not apply to the lawmakers and their votes will be counted. But if a minority group abandons the prime minister then their votes in a no-trust motion would not be counted.
“This proposal was accepted back then and Article 68 was added to the Constitution,” the PTI leader said. “The Supreme Court has also interpreted it as such, that if the majority [members] of a party leave then the vote will be counted.”